Speaking to reporters Monday while touring a vaccination center in West London, Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that at least one patient infected with the omicron strain has died, marking the first known death WITH the variant in a developed nation.
The PM added that he would ensure all adults 18 and over have an opportunity to get their booster jabs before Christmas, while suggesting - or at least refusing to rule out - the possibility of more restrictions on businesses and movement before the holidays as well. A spokesman for BoJo later said there were no plans to close hospitality venues.
"Sadly yes Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron," he said.
"So I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, I think that's something we need to set on one side and just recognise the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population. So the best thing we can do is all get our boosters."
Analysts were quick to point out that No. 10 Downing Street has provided only scant details about the death, and that the government refused to say whether the patient who died had other comorbidities that could have contributed to their death.
According to Sky News, the confirmation comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Sky earlier that "about 10" patients were presently hospitalized in the UK with omicron.
The UK has confirmed far more cases of the variant than other developed nations with larger populations (such as the US). Thanks to its proficiency at carrying out variant surveillance, the UK has confirmed 3,137 cases.
BoJo added that MPs thinking about voting against his "Plan B" measures should be warned that "now is not the time for complacency."
"Throughout the pandemic I've been at great pains to stress to the public that we have to watch where the pandemic is going and we take whatever steps are necessary to protect public health."
"We think the steps that we are taking - so Plan B, combined with a hugely ambitious acceleration of the booster campaign, bringing it forward by a month so we offer a booster to every adult by the end of the year - we think that's the right approach."
BoJo added that omicron now represents about 40% of coronavirus cases in London and "tomorrow it'll be the majority of the cases" in the capital. Earlier, government advisers said omicron would be the dominant case in the UK by Christmas. The omicron "tidal wave" - as BoJo put it - is happening at the same time as cases in Gauteng, the epicenter of omicron in South Africa, is showing signs of slowing.
Researchers have suggested that omicron infections are likely to be more mild, especially in patients who have already been infected with the virus, or have been vaccinated (although some researchers fear the protections from the Pfizer vaccine are almost non-existent).